How One Beauty Entrepreneur Is Engaging Customers During COVID-19  4/15/2020

Manna Kadar, CEO & Founder, Manna Kadar Beauty

ECRM's Joseph Tarnowski spoke with Manna Kadar, Founder and CEO of Manna Kadar Beauty, about how she has adjusted to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic –– not just as a business owner, but also as a mom.

They discussed the various ways in which Kadar is staying engaged with buyers and consumers, and how she's leveraging content and social media to do this, sharing information not just about beauty, but about different ways in which her audience can cope with the isolation, such as cooking together with the family, sprucing up different areas of the home, and managing their personal and business finances (Manna's a former banker). In addition, they explore how this pandemic is actually helping to bring people closer together, even though it's being done virtually –– and how comforting a simple phone call can be.

They wrap up with a discussion of how Manna is using this time to strategically plan out how she's going to pick up the ball and run with it once things get back to normal. 

Beauty buyers and suppliers can connect with each other virtually via the ECRM Health & Beauty Care Efficient Supplier Introductions! Click here for the list of categories covered.

Listen to the podcast here


ECRM: Hey everybody, Joe with ECRM here, and I have with me Manna Kadar, the founder of Manna Kadar Beauty. So thank you for joining us. I know the last time we met in person was in January at our Cosmetics, Fragrance & Bath Program. So I’ve been following you on Instagram and on LinkedIn, and you’ve been doing some amazing content and not all of is specifically beauty-related, but rather it’s become tailored to your audience and about how they can cope with the isolation they are all facing at the moment, which I think is awesome. So I want to touch on some of that stuff during our conversation, but before we get into that, can you tell everybody a little bit about your company?

Kadar: Yes, absolutely. So my name is Manna Kadar. I am founder of Manna Kadar Beauty. We are a family of lifestyle brands. So we have two cosmetics lines, Manna Kadar and Goddess, a men's line called Mason Man named after my son Mason, a bath and body line, a pet line and then a maternity line called Beauty & The Bump, so we pretty much have something for the entire family.

ECRM: How has the pandemic impacted your company?

Kadar: We very proudly are in many retail locations – over 6,000 doors. And as you can imagine, it has had a huge impact on that piece of the business. So I would say about 90% of the business has been kind of halted, much like all of retail. So that's not to say we don't have other avenues for business as well. There's always the direct to consumer, e-com. We work with a lot of box companies as well, so, so yes, we have been impacted fairly dramatically. What I have to say though that's interesting is when we do our strategy meetings with the team, I've always focused on, okay, we need some more diversification as far as revenue is concerned. Right? And this is the exact scenario that I was trying to avoid where, here's this big pocket of business which we have nurtured and grown. But that's where it just like hits you all at once. Now, I don't think that we could have ever prepared for a pandemic or that one whole category to go away. But what we have done is shifted our focus. Now we have the time to explore more of those other avenues and cultivate those parts of the business so it can be more diversified, you know, overall.

ECRM: So you're examining all the different strategies that you can do. Maybe when we get out of this, that will serve as like a buffer just in case something like this happens again.

Kadar: Well, we're doing it now. We're implementing a lot of things now. Like for example, our Amazon game was not that strong. So we're, we're looking to really ramp that up and other e-com, other different sites that we can be on. We are returning to like the flash sale world to play in that a little bit. So there's a number of things that we can do now that will certainly plant the seed now for it to flourish and grow.

ECRM: Some of these products may actually be in the next wave of so-called essential items. I actually just posted something on our blog up two days ago about the next wave of essential items. In the beginning, of course it was food. It was a hand sanitizer. It was toilet paper, lots and lots of toilet paper. But now that everybody's facing all this time at home, other items are going to become essential, like toys to keep the kids busy, school and office supplies for the kids that are at home or the workers that are working at home for the first time. And even beauty in the sense that you have all these people that are doing virtual meetings now, like we are right now and eventually they're going to get tired of seeing themselves on the all undone or their roots are going to start showing, but also the wellness aspect, you know, to relax and find a sense of normalcy. Are you seeing that?

Kadar: Absolutely. I'm going to film a video today about beauty hacks because consumers are not able to go see the people that provide us these great services that we so took for granted. Like I didn't realize how much I needed them and I actually think they are. Like doing things at home; nails is a good example – it’s not just hygiene, it's about grooming as well. And if you look good, you feel good, you even if you are doing it at home. Manicures at home, hair color, whatever it is. Men too, like actually our ops manager, he's growing a full on beard now because it's just kind of his way of like coping with this and so I think there's a lot of new opportunities even more for this next week. I've seen a rise from an e-comm side of the business in nail Polish as well, versus our lip items which used to lead the pack.

ECRM: Gotcha. I was thinking about growing a full beard during the lockdown. Plus my hair's usually buzzed a lot shorter and now I'm going to have to just find a way to deal with it growing over the next few weeks. 

Kadar: Next time I see you, I want to see a full-on like man bun!

ECRM: It's interesting because, now people are settled in, and they know that it's going to be for a while, so they are doing all these different things. And one of them is consuming a lot more digital content, and that’s kind of the meat of the conversation that I wanted to get into with you is the importance of content and engagement and really staying in the context of what's happening. So I notice you're not always talking about your beauty products, or when you do, it's in the context of virtual meetings or how to make yourself comfortable. So can you talk a little bit about how your content or engagement has shifted as this whole thing has happened?

Kadar: Sure. And a big shout out to my husband who was the one who really pushed me to do more content because I am a business owner at heart. I am not an influencer or content creator. Props to those people cause it takes a lot of work and preparation to do all of these videos. But you know, pre quarantine I was, I was always like nose to the laptop, getting like business like done. And now I feel like okay we have a chance to pause a bit and take a step back and go, okay well what does my audience really need? How can we really support each other right now and what do I have as far as like either knowledge or access to items that can really help people. So that's kind of where it started. One of my first videos was on quarantine makeup. We are all doing the zoom thing, which, to be honest, I hadn't done zoom before this whole quarantine thing, but I had been in front of the camera, so I do know what to do to make sure that we're camera-ready. So just giving people just basic tips on being presentable. Many people still fortunately are working, so it's like we got to put our best face forward, and helping people from that capacity, but then also keeping it fun. 

I kind of have this like Martha Stewart-ish side of me as well, where I love cooking and interior design and all that good stuff. So I can share that, and those are actually the videos that I get requested the most -- doing that breakfast charcuterie that I had done the other day, or the floral arranging and I just posted one on an Easter tablescape, showing people how to create these fun, beautiful environments for themselves during this time. You don't have to feel like you're stuck. It’s almost a pleasure and a gift to be able to have this time for yourself or with your family.

ECRM: I didn't even know what a tablescape was until I saw that video because I live in an apartment in Queens and I don't have a big dining room table. It's basically a living room, two bedrooms – I’m a typical apartment dweller. But it's cool that you're bringing them into your world. And then also the fact that, you know, I'm a big believer in that the content has to be relevant to your audience, not necessarily about your business all the time. For example, one of our colleagues, Oh, posted something about what do you wear when you work at home? It’s not about our business directly, but when you think about it, how many of our audience are salespeople or business owners that do work from home? So what's relevant for the audience? It got a huge response and like you said about yours, sometimes the best reactions you'll get from some of this content you never expect. But as long as it's relevant to your audience, that's what makes it count.

Kadar: Yes. And I think now more than ever the playing field has been leveled. We are all at home. We are all just trying, you know, to make it work. I'm kind of jotting down ideas for the next things to do because we have another 20 days or so, so we'll do one about quarantine hair, like how can we achieve like really beautiful hairstyle and while using just the tools that we have at home.

ECRM: I got an idea for you. Put your husband on the spot now and do a men's grooming one!

Kadar: Oh, that's a good idea. That is a good idea. Cause he does have a full on beard and he's Persian. So it's like, how do you manage all, all of that hair? It does take quite a while and he takes longer to get ready than I do a really great idea.

ECRM: I look forward to seeing that one. And it's funny you mentioned, you know now we have this virtual meeting program and I'm sure you've probably gotten the emails from our teams. We launched these Efficient Supplier Introductions, which have been going gangbusters. We had a thousand buyers register for these and we're going to be also creating a virtual platform that's more like our in-person programs, with one-on-one meetings. But in prep for that, I worked with somebody to put together a video on how sellers can do a, what you need to know to do a good virtual presentation. And I worked with this woman named Emily Page. She's a packaging design expert, but in her role, she's done hundreds of these before the pandemic. I didn't realize there was so much you need to keep in mind. What you’re wearing, your background, the wifi, the camera, the camera angle, the lighting, which I still have, I just ordered a circular one like you did. Like I have a lamp, my desk lamp. And then the presentation itself, the value of using like 3D mockups versus just like, you know, holding the product up to a the screen. All of these things that you never would have thought of. I learned so much from just doing that interview. So it's like a different world now. So I think as more and more people get stuck home longer, I think they're going to start treating this. But you know, the, the other thing that I thought was cool was you letting people inside to your world. I'm a big Gary Vaynerchuk fan and he has this philosophy called document don't create. And so you are kind of documenting your life as a business owner and a mom during the quarantine. And I think that, you know, a lot of people can relate to that in the industry. 

Kadar: Yes – as I mentioned, this is the great equalizer, right? I am no different than other moms out there and people that are working in just trying to keep it all together, that's what I do on a daily basis. And people ask why am I putting makeup on and doing my hair? I'm like, look, I own a beauty brand. I cannot just roll out of bed looking not representative of who I am and what I do. If you want to be professional, you want people to take you seriously, then you should look like whatever your profession is.

Let's say you were an attorney and you're in a baseball cap. Okay, I appreciate that you're trying to Netflix and chill here, but can you chill some other time and not during our professional time. But that's, that's just me. I might just be old fashioned in that sense. But I think people just, you know, they view you a little bit differently. They take you seriously. But back to your question: I think I wanted to show people that, just because my title is CEO doesn't mean my life is any different than everyone else's. You know, I'm trying to keep my company alive. I'm trying to keep my family alive by feeding them and trying to have some semblance of fun and creativity and positivity during this time with my husband who is a business owner himself. So we are both fighting the good fight right now and just sharing that with the world a little bit so people know that they're not alone. 

ECRM: I didn't realize you were a financial wiz too. I saw that you gave some practical tips for people in businesses. 

Kadar: I used to be in banking. I have a finance degree and I was a corporate banker for many years. So I have to say now more than ever, I did not realize that the, that, that particular skill set would have come in so handy. Right now I have to, you know, this is one thing I really would encourage people to do is explore your personal networks. Now is the time to reach out to people if you need something ask for it. Or if he knows someone who knows, someone asks for it.

You know we've had to as a company, we've applied for the PPP loan that's out there. And I literally, you know, reached out to my personal banker so that on the Monday that that program was released, my app was already in with a bank president of the bank that was helping me with this. But it was only through my networking and my contacts and my banking knowledge that I was able to do that. So not that you need all of those things, but you might know someone who can help you navigate this process so that like now is not the time to sit and wait and see. Action is what needs to happen right now, especially if you can foresee potential disturbances or interruptions in your business.

Even if it hasn't happened yet, it could in the next several months if this thing goes on longer and longer. Cause originally I think people were looking at this as a more short term thing. I was hopeful that it would be short term, but as, as we progress, the longer we are in it, the longer it's going to take for us to get back to what was normal patterns for people. So get on top of it, get on it quickly. And if, if you don't know, ask someone. I am seeing the great human spirit right now where people are more than ever just willing to help. They just don't know how sometimes, you know.

ECRM: Yeah. And even if the federal government says, okay, you could start opening up a little bit, nobody's going to, at least not until everybody's tested or at least until the peaks are all gone from the different States.

Kadar: It'll be awhile. Like no one knows how long that's going to be, but let's say tomorrow are, the president says, okay, everyone open the flood Gates. I mean everyone is going to be charging out to go to do whatever they were doing before. So it's, it's going to take some time. So that's, that's something to consider, you know, as well with, with planning

ECRM: And there's going to be restrictions anyway or whether self-imposed or imposed by governments, you know, like in restaurants. I was just talking to bar business magazine yesterday and they're talking about restaurants. When they open up again, they still may only be able to have 50% capacity or they're going to have to have social distancing rules and other businesses are going to be the same. So like for us or travel, I've been home for the longest stretch in six years. It, I've never, I haven't been home for weeks. I want a long time. So you know, I think it's going to continue for a while because a lot of people in the industry are not going to want to travel. So it's just a matter of, like you said, make the best of it. Figure out, use this time productively to kind of, you know, strategize and, you know, keep communication. Communication's essential. Have you jumped into the Instagram live videos yet?

Kadar: I've done a couple of them. It’s fun to catch the people at that time that are on and I see a lot of people doing them now. We've done a couple that are joint, which I didn't know that you could do joint lives. I'm going to be doing one with my husband on LinkedIn on Tuesday actually. So we'll be, we'll be talking about technology and how we leverage technology and the opportunity for the future. So that one's a little geared a little bit more towards like the business crowd. 

ECRM: I'll have to check that out. I haven't tried the LinkedIn live yet, so I hear mixed reviews. I think it's, you have to use a certain tool or different tools to do it.

Kadar: Yeah. It's a certain it's a certain program. 

ECRM: So tell me about Grandma Mia.

Kadar: So sadly, you know, right now is the time where there's a lot of xenophobia happening with Asian people. You know, I'm, I'm half Asian myself. I live in California and fortunately I have not seen this personally. But I read a story about an Asian grandma who is homeless in New York and she was getting spat on, and people were telling her to go back to her country and take her disease with her. So, you know I just felt compelled to help. And, you know, I was raised by two very strong women and my mom, my mom and my grandmother, both Asian and all I saw was like my grandmother and her being treated that way and you know, she's already down on her luck. And for any human to treat anyone like that, regardless of race, age, any of that is just unthinkable.

So we started a go fund me for her and we got some different people in the community involved and we're trying to find her because right when we started doing this, New York was on shutdown and she is a homeless person, so hopefully she is sheltering somewhere comfortable. So we have a group of people who will be vigilantly looking for her after everything's kind of opened back up. But, you know, I, it was one of those things where I felt like it was personal to me and I, I could make an impact on at least her life. You know, in a, in a meaningful way. 

ECRM: I thought that was awesome. And if there's any way I can help being here in New York, let me know. You know I'll look at the video more closely and see, you know, I, I'll try and find out where that was. Do you know where in New York it was?

Kadar: No, we, we try to reach out to the nonprofit who originally posted it and you know, they, it was on a subway. But because everyone's had to pretty much shelter, who knows where she is. So I'm just hoping that she's safe and comfortable and wealth and warm and all of that good stuff.

ECRM: Well, I know they've been looking out for homeless people, and finding ways to help them out. So hopefully she did get some help. So how are you preparing for when this whole pandemic passes? What do you envision the world is going to be like for small businesses like yourself or brands as we kind of get out of this?

Kadar: One of the things we're doing is innovating as far as products are concerned. There will be a demand for a different kind of product as we exit this stage of our lives, we’re all going to live a little bit differently. So we are we are creating new items to bring to market. Beyond that, I think from a business perspective, we are taking a look at inventory and planning, reviewing what we have now and what do we think we're going to need for the future. I do think that there is going to be Christmas that comes out of this still. Last I checked, everyone still loved Christmas and still wants to participate with Christmas.

I'm hopeful that that will help bring back some of this retail demand, whether it's online or brick and mortar. So we are trying to be proactive in projecting what we will need for holidays and to not overbuy, and put ourselves in a position that doesn't make sense. We’re also exploring leveraging other avenues for the business, you know e-comm and, and whatnot. And what we are doing is we're staying in contact with our buyers. ECRM has been instrumental in introducing us to too many of them, and so we already had good relationships from that. I call them, check on how they are doing, what’s going on. One buyer I called recently we were chatting for about half an hour just about life in general. This particular buyer is on quarantine with her in-laws in New Jersey because there is more space. So we were just talking about life and how to manage and what she's doing, what I'm doing and just telling funny stories. 

Like, like we actually had the cops called on us the other day because we were outside on our front porch and my husband was working out with our, with our daughter. She was pretending to work out with him. The cop car comes, stops right in front of our house because someone had called and said that we weren't social distancing cause we were in front of our house. So we were sharing social distancing stories. 

I think we are fortifying more, building personal relationships that are that are very genuine, because as much as retailers hate it, they're canceling the orders that they don't want to cancel because they've worked so hard to plan out their merchandising for the product and their projections for sales. And so, I feel like the buyers and the brands, we're in it together. We all want to pick right back up when this thing blows over. So we're just keeping in contact so we can exchange information about what’s happening with retailers or what trends are they seeing or what are their holiday plans. But a lot of the conversation is just about how they are coping. And we'll probably all come out of this is like really great friends rather than just business acquaintances.

ECRM: I agree. I think it's making people realize what's truly important and what's less important and, and the importance of connection certainly because now we're mostly deprived of that in-person connection. And I think that's just, that's going to be good for everybody. I've realized during the past three weeks that there are certain things that I really don't need and there are certain things that are important and you know, sure, I miss going out on Fridays and hanging out with my friends and, but I could still call them and I could still stay in touch, but also the the stillness of just being home and being able to read a book and maybe work out a little longer and get more sleep. And that's been kind of cool too, but it makes you realize some of the dumb things you waste your money on that you don't need. But I think that's a great example of just staying engaged with them. So what kind of weird hobbies – aside from table-scaping – have you taken up during this time?

Kadar: Well, I am not like an outdoorsy person. I wouldn't even call myself an active person. And my husband conversely is the exact opposite. So he's got the kids on these like little kid mopeds and kids' scooters and kids car things. So he's purchased some hoverboards, and it was so much fun and like I'm on the kids like scooters and bikes and like hanging out with them outdoors, like doing that stuff when I normally would be inside doing like non-outdoor things. So I would say definitely being active. 

ECRM: So give me a couple of recommendations, some takeaways for brands that are out there in this situation. Recommendations on what they should be doing now, what they should be planning.

Kadar: I think they need to look at their finances and plan for the rest of the year and plan for like a worst case scenario and then work back from there; worst case, moderate case, best case and see what really needs to be done. I have worked very diligently on making sure that I keep my team in place so that everyone's being very productive and doing forward-thinking tasks. Do those things now so that when you get back on full time or online full time, you're ready to go. Get your efficiencies in place, get your SLPs written, get all of the things in order to get your house in order so that when you're ready to go home again, it just keeps moving.

This was you can hit the ground running. Work on your strategy and think about, what new things you can have, what new customers you could potentially have. And by the same token, what dead weight can you get rid of. Cause I don't think that all customers are great customers. And especially during challenging times, it's really important to work with people that are in alignment with your company's core values and your mission. 

ECRM: I think Tim Ferriss was a big fan of that. He would always say, fire your worst customers because those worst customers are going to take more time from the good customers.

Kadar: Definitely. And now's a great time to work on sales. Just because sales aren't like coming along how they were before, you can still prepare for it in the future. I have never had this kind of time to devote to strategy and planning for the company. It was always, I'm too busy. Like you, I was traveling everywhere all the time and it was impossible to find this much time to work. Like how they say work on the business, not in the business. So I would say work on the business right now and then you'll have a chance to work in the business a little bit later. But all joking aside, now is the time to really leverage those opportunities and see beyond the Coronavirus, see what it looks like for you, because I think that there is so much opportunity that will come out of this despite the bad, there is so much opportunity for everyone out there. We just need to see how that translates into our own prospective businesses.

ECRM: Great stuff. Well thank you so much. I really appreciate this. I'm glad we were able to get together virtually and I look forward to being able to get together in person again.

Kadar: Likewise!


Craig Chmielowicz

SVP of Health & Beauty Care

Craig can be reached at +1 440 528-0445

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